Butter is Back and Specialty Fats are Emerging

Butter is Back and Specialty Fats are Emerging

Butter sales reached their highest level in decades as reviews of past research by some scientists now suggest there is no basis for implicating saturated fat in heart disease.  The research reviews have generated much controversy with highly regarded nutrition authorities concerned that the conclusions are irresponsible and will result in consumers abandoning decades of moderation and good judgment (or maybe just guilt) when it comes to selecting dietary fats and the foods that contain them. 

Millennials and Generation Z Seek Healthy Fats and Oils

In reality, there is a strong case to be made that other factors matter a lot more to consumers in relation to dietary sources of fats and oils than a distant threat of heart disease.  This is especially true when it comes to Millennials and Generation Z consumers, according to the Packaged Facts report Food Formulation Trends: Oils and Fats.  Even if the latest scientific studies and reviews had confirmed a direct link between saturated fat and heart disease, it can be argued that these younger consumers might very well have made the same purchase decisions anyway.   

Minimally Processed and Additive Free Foods Trending

In addition to the fact that flavor and taste has always been the primary decision-making criterion when it comes to food products, younger consumers, who are generally very interested in health and wellbeing, demonstrate much greater concern about making choices that also reflect their values, such as choosing foods that have been minimally processed without additives and that contain organic and GMO-free ingredients, accompanied by short and simple ingredient lists.  These consumers are more likely to reject fats or oils that have been chemically refined or that are sourced from commodity grains produced by large scale agricultural production.

Given this consumer orientation, the recent return to butter, along with growing interest in full-fat and grass-fed milk and yogurt, ancestral fats, and specialty oils derived from fruits, seeds, and nuts of plants with healthy connotations, such as coconuts, avocados, pumpkins, pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnuts, should come as no surprise.  Expect this new landscape for fats and oils to continue to extend its reach beyond the cooking oil aisle of the supermarket.  Savvy processed food manufacturers are already taking note, with salty snacks some of the first products to showcase oils perceived as healthier and packaged cookie brands returning to the indulgent, full flavor of butter.

-- by Elaine Tecklenburg